The feathered mattress was comfortable beneath her folded arms, allowing her to close her eyes. The sounds of footsteps echoed out in the long halls as she listened for any sudden changes in the prince’s condition. She wouldn’t sleep, not when the boy was struggling to breathe.
Something brushed the top of her head. She opened an eye to see the boy resting his hand atop her hair. His fingers ran through her locks while he gazed at her. A small smirk rested on his face. She lifted her head taking his hand in hers.
“I didn’ mean to wake yah,” he croaked, giving her hand a weak squeeze.
“It’s all right, I wasn’t sleeping,” Liora muttered, patting his hand before sitting herself up in his chair. “I can sleep when you get better.”
“If… I get better,” her friend coughed, bringing his hand to his mouth before hacking into it. His body thrust forward with each spasm. He fell back into his pillow exhausted and sore from the sudden jolt.
“You will. I saw it remember.”
He grimaced at those words. They had made him smile once. Whenever she had mentioned her vision the boy had always looked forward to the future. He had told her how much he wanted to travel, and that he had wanted to study music in Calin. The boy had told her how he wanted to take her to Derlin and show her the Isle of Kings.
“What if yah didn?” Cáel sighed. “What if what yah saw was my hopes… not the future?”
Liora didn’t know what to say. Marcia’s memory of Gil was what Liora had seen. Caldor’s memories of his childhood were what she had read. Had she read the memories the boy wanted to have? Had her strange power confused his innermost desires as truth.
No. There had been plenty of people she had helped, like when she had foreseen the return of a child that wandered off in the forest in Downrow, or the woman - Mara - whose husband hadn’t died but instead left her for a younger woman in Bay’s Lake. Those predictions had been of future events, and they both came true. It wasn’t his hopes she had read… it couldn’t have been.
“No,” Liora breathed, tightening her grip on his boney fingers. They felt like a bundle of twigs. She loosened her grip so as to not snap them. “I know what I saw… you’re not going to die.”
“Li…” he heaved, his chest crackling, “it’s all ’ight… I’ve accepted it… I’m not afraid.”
“I don’t care if you’re not afraid,” she snapped, her chest aching. “I stayed here because of you… you told me you didn’t want to be alone… and now you’re talking about dying… you’re talking about leaving me alone.”
Cáel’s brows lifted before he gave her his goofy smirk.
“Who’s guil…ting who now, eh?” he chuckled, sending him into another wave of coughing spasms.
Liora sat him up, seating herself beside him on the bed. His forehead rested against her shoulder as she rubbed his back, trying to ease his convulsions. She could feel his ribs through his nightshirt. His coughing lessened and body relaxed.
“If guilt will keep you here I can live with that,” Liora whispered, continuing to rub his back as his breathing eased.
Marcia rolled a red hot coal from under the log in the fireplace into the iron canister of the bed heater. This was the third time she had done it, and each time she visited the room she found the girl in the same place.
Carrying the canister, Marcia lifted the end of the quilt before sliding it over the mattress. If nothing else, the heat would keep the boy warm if it didn’t sweat the fever out.
The Detress glanced again at the girl, who was curled up in Cáel’s padded chair. Her knees in her chest while she thumbed through a large book balanced atop her knees. Liora didn’t look up; she was like Caldor in that way. Lost in thought and ignoring the world.
The girl hadn’t left the prince’s side since her fight with the old sage. Caldor had shared his concern but he couldn’t understand why she was so determined to fix the boy.
Marcia understood why. It had been Cáel who welcomed the girl and made her useful. He had been the one who had made her a part of Demor. Liora couldn’t lose someone else, after everything she had gone through, and there was nothing Marcia could do to ease her pain.
When the bedding was fixed, Marcia made her way towards the girl. Her nose was still buried in the book when Marcia placed a hand on top of the girl’s head and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
Liora glanced up, forcing a smile before it faded back to her blank expression.
“Have yah eaten?” Marcia asked.
“Not hungry,” the girl muttered. Her feet slid off the padded chair before putting the book at the edge of the bed.
“All right,” Marcia sighed, “I’ll have the kitchen make yah up a plate.”
There was nothing she could do for the prince, but Marcia wasn’t going to allow the girl to starve. The girl had no reply as she folded her arms and rested them on the edge atop the book. Maybe it was good she was trying to sleep.
“If yah need anything let me know,” Marcia said, leaving the room and making her way down the hall. She curled a lock of hair around her finger as she contemplated informing Caldor of the girl’s lack of appetite. They didn’t need her getting sick too.
If she’s hungry, she’ll eat. Marcia assured herself before spotting one of the servants leaving a guest room.
“Gretta, dear,” Marcia called, noticing the wee woman turn towards her.
“Yes, me Detress. What can I do fer you?” the woman asked, wiping her hands on her apron and curtsying to the lady of Demor.
“Lil Li hasn’ eaten yet, could yah run to the kitchen and bring her a plate? I would do it, but me son is…” Marcia noticed the woman nod and turn to start down the hall.
“Say no more, Detress,” Gretta hurried out of sight, and Marcia smiled.
The staff of Demor Castle was the friendliest her husband could find. They were hard working and caring, for not only her family but their guests as well.
Opening the door to her room, she took a moment to admire the man she loved. He was sitting over their satin covers, reading over important papers from the king’s council.
Sauntering over to the velvet lounge set up a distance from the fireplace, Marcia admired her sweet boy suckle his thumb. He had the same bright blond locks like his father, but her curls. Druce was a handsome boy, and one day she was sure he would become a handsome man just like the man she married.
“He’s been sleepin’ for an hour now. Don’ wake him, please. He wouldn’ shut up with the bloody questions when yah left,” Foe whispered. The papers were resting in his lap now. His eyes glistened in the fire’s glow.
Marcia sat down before her vanity, taking her horse hair brush to begin the long process of untangling her curls. She noticed Foe admiring her when she glanced at him in her mirror and smiled.
“Yah the most beautiful woman in the world,” Foe chimed.
Marcia blushed, turning her glance down at the marble topped vanity.
“Yah just saying that ’cause I married yah,” she jested, as a wide goofy smile crept across her love’s face.
“Well, can yah blame me woman? Ya’re glowin’,” he said, lifting a hand towards her.
“It’s the fire me love, not me, I promise yah that,” Marcia smirked, hearing him sigh.
“Take a bloody compliment,” he grumbled, lifting the papers back up before turning his attention back to his work.
She knew he knew she was just teasing. The man wouldn’t stop complimenting her, even if she asked. Those puppy dog eyes whenever he ogled her would never grow old. Neither would his charm.
“She hasn’ left his room,” Marcia sighed.
Foe placed the papers on the table beside the bed before sliding his feet onto the floor. He had sensed something was bothering his wife, but he wasn’t going to pry. He didn’t have to.
“Well, she’s worried about him - like the rest of us,” Foe replied, resting his hands on his wife’s shoulders. She gazed up at him through the mirror with her violet eyes in the evening light. “I’m sure that there is nothin’ to be concerned for.”
“She’s not eating, Foe,” Marcia hummed, feeling the man squeeze her shoulders. “We don’ need her sick too.”
“I know me love, and she won’. Yah know why?” Foe brushed a curl from his wife’s face. “Tomorrow if the lil beast still hasn’ eaten I’ll feed her myself. Shove a spoon in her mouth and make her eat.”
“That may not end well, for either of yah,” Marcia smirked, turning around on the bench before feeling the man’s warm hands on her cheeks, “but I appreciate what yar tryin’ to do.”
“Yah know me,” he kissed her atop her blonde curls, “I’ll do anythin’ for yah, me love.”